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WDR 2004: Consultation with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Brussels

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World Development Report 2004

World Development Report 2004 (WDR) –Making Services Work for the Poor Consultation with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Brussels
Thursday, March 13, 2003

The World Bank (WB) held a consultation with CSOs in Brussels on March 13, 2003 as part of the global consultations on the World Bank’s annual publication the World Development Report (WDR) 2004: "Making Services Work for Poor People".

The consultation began with a presentation of the WDR outline by Mr Steve Commins (SC) from the WB’s WDR team, followed by a round of questions by the different participants (please find list of participants attached).

SC began by thanking everyone for participating in the session. He then gave an overview of the WDR, highlighting its strengths, weaknesses, limitations and aspirations:

The WDR has a long history and its ethos has evolved over time. Its processes came under scrutiny and were widely criticised in the 1990’s, the fundamental criticisms were with regard to purpose of the report, as well as ownership and participation in the process of drafting the report.

More recent reports have recognised these criticisms and have sought to ensure increased participation in the report-drafting process. There is a clear appreciation that the WDR process is not aimed only at producing a book, a crucial part of it, is engagement with development partners, including donors and CSOs. Conversations and inputs from various stakeholders have shaped the process of understanding of what it means to make basic services work for the poor.

The various stages in writing the WDR were explained. It was noted that an e-dialogue will be managed by Public World on behalf of the WDR in April and May.

Another critical issue highlighted was what will happen to the end product. Various mechanisms to ensure the WDR does not just sit on people’s shelves have been created. These include:
An agreement with the World Bank Institute to create a CD ROM which will contain all background papers, criticisms and dialogue in the process of creating the report, with accompanying study and reference guides;

Structuring the World Bank Development Market Place around the same theme. The objective of the Development Marketplace is to identify and fund the most innovative ideas in development from around the world. The theme for DM2003 is Making Services Work for Poor People. The window for proposal is open from Monday March 3 through to May 2, 2003. (more information can be found at ;

Human Development Week 2003 in September will focus on this theme as well;

SC explained the thinking behind the WDR 2004. There is a recognition that the title of the 2004 report deals with 2 core issues: Making Services work and making services work for poor people.

SC continued by stating that 3 relationships are seen as key in the delivery chain: the relationship between poor people and service providers; between poor people and policy makers and between policy makers and service providers. It was noted that the relationship between policy makers and service providers is more than a monetary relationship. A critical issue is how do you motivate the provider and yet allow flexibility. The reality that donors have different roles in different countries was also acknowledged. The issue of donors undermining development aims is one which must not be taken for granted.

SC mentioned that the WDR approach is “12 sizes fits all” and that the approach to be taken varies from country to country. He stated that the starting premise is that these services are public services for reasons of equity, market failure and justice. Some organizations read the original WDR 2004 outline as criticizing the failures of the public sector in order to promote greater privatisation, but the message of the WDR is that there are no fixes, whether privatisation or technical adjustments.

Following SC’s presentation there was a lively question and answer session.

Participants Comments/Questions:

The issue of the relationship between the environment and development was raised, and the implications of a future climate change regime be it via emissions trading or otherwise for development and diversion of funds from development to environment as environmental obligations are increasingly being regarded as part of funding for development. (Climate Network Europe)

Is more emphasis going to be placed on making services work, or making services work for the poor and why does the WDR not place emphasis on consultation with the poor? (ATD Quart Monde)

Does the definition of ‘policy makers’ as used in the WDR include international Institutions such as the WTO (GATS) and if consideration is given to the lack of coherence between various institutional actors. (Broederlijk Delen)

What role is envisaged by the WDR for private participation in service delivery when the state has failed. (Aga Khan Foundation)?

Why is provision of services to failed or Conflict states not addressed by the WDR? (International Crisis Group)

Would the World Bank and IMF be ready to change their policies in the event that debt servicing obligations impinged on the ability to make services work for the poor? (World Vision)

Would the issue of brain-drain and its implications for service delivery be included in the WDR? It was suggested that provision of incentives to local service providers such as decent accommodation and salaries might help reduce this trend. In addition the causes of developed country personnel refusing to provide these services have to be addressed?.(The Quaker Council for European Affairs)

How does the WDR envisage these services would be paid for? Would the use of taxation as a means of raising revenue be included? Some CSO representatives noted the benefit of user fees, as it helps in ensuring accountability and sustainability, for example the existence of a system of collecting user fees may have prevented the closure of Marie Stopes outlets in Tanzania it was argued.(Marie Stopes International)

A representative from wanted to know why the issue of Reproductive Health was left out of the outline for the WDR. (Marie Stopes International)

Was the role of Northern CSOs as providers of support to southern CSOs be mentioned in the WDR? (The Quaker Council for Europe)

What is the Bank’s position on creating Endowment Funds? (Aga Khan Foundation)

A CSO representative mentioned he appreciated the distinction made between service provider and policy maker. (Caritas Europa)

Why was rights based language not used in the WDR ? (Caritas Europa)

The WDR overview was criticised for starting from the premise that poor people can always make a choice i.e. “vote with their feet”, whilst in actual fact this is less often the case. What would the ideal impact of WDR as envisaged by the World bank be? (World Vision)

Too poor to be sick! SC was asked his opinion as to what you can do when people were in debt due to payment for health services e.g. in Cambodia were girls are sent out to do “house keeping” (World Vision)

Participants noted the need for earlier consultation with CSOs on the WDR and other donor reports.

The issue of how to balance how money is spent with each countries’ right to determine its own sustainable development was highlighted as a difficulty. (Climate Network Europe)


With regard to the environment and development funds, SC stated that there are concerns about the ‘crowding out’ effect of global funds and a growing awareness that these funds can work to reduce government ownership as well as lessen citizen participation and ownership.

As some services do not work at all, the starting point is getting them to work. With regard to access for the poor, it is appreciated that poverty is more than economic poverty and a major issue is one of social exclusion.

With regard to privatisation, views vary within the World Bank as well as other donor agencies on the best mix of providers. The WDR position is that it depends on the particular country context, the public sector’s current role and capacity, the particular service. The starting point for the WDR is that more privatisation is not a solution---some countries or services should have greater public provision, others more by CSOs or for profit providers. The WDR tries to work from its framework of relationships rather than fixed answers.

With regard to conflict or failed states, it was acknowledged that the international community had not done a good job in such countries and that aid was often times based on false premises. However the LICUS (Low Income Countries Under Stress) group within the World Bank was trying to document experiences and guide improved approaches to service delivery for greater impact in such countries. The WDR matrix on ’12 sizes’ does include LICUS type countries.

The envisaged impact of the WDR includes working with development organization staff in shifting away from thinking primarily of technical issues to balanced with consideration of institutional issues.

The WDR process (including consultations with CSOs) will allow for an assessment of issues pertinent to making services work for the poor as articulated by various stake holders.

CSOs need to present the argument and create awareness on the implications of debt servicing to service delivery.

The draft WDR does contain a section on brain-drain, however, it must be recognised that provision of services in rural areas is affected by deeply imbedded issues of gender, ethnic and racial exclusion.

With regard to user fees, the position taken was not one totally opposed to user fees in all the services under consideration, nonetheless in education and certain basic health services a negative relationship had been shown between service delivery to the poor and user fees. Taxation is dealt with in the draft WDR. He reiterated that the starting point of the WDR is that provision of essential services is a public responsibility for reasons outlined in the report.

The section of the Glossary which explains the use of the term CSO instead of NGO explains the relationship between Northern and Southern CSOs.

With regard to the particular role of the Report, it was again noted that the WDR is not a statement of the World Bank’s policy.

With regard to rights-based language, the historical the view has been that the use of any rights-based language could be viewed as overtly political and therefore outside the Bank’s mandate. However through the Bank’s dealing with UN partners and other International actors, the Bank is increasingly discussing rights-based development without necessarily using rights-based language.

While the report does not address the issue, reproductive health is seen as fundamentally important by the World Bank in many of its programs.

Mr Commins noted that he was not very familiar with Endowment funds and would appreciate more information on CSOs position on this issue.

Ade Adegite/Rachel Winter Jones
March 28, 2003

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